Of memes and men

Is the new EU copyright directive the end of creativity on the internet or an era of better conditions for artists? Here are some opinions by two irrelevant computer science students.


As the EU turned towards a single digital market, it soon became apparent that matters relating to copyright will have to be sorted too. Two years of lobbying ensued on both sides.

But it is easy to get riled up, to take up arms against the “meme ban” and “link tax”, without knowing what is being passed. Rui and I (Klemen) therefore decided to write this article. The next section will focus on objectively explaining what is being passed, followed by our opinions.


The directive extends the existing EU copyright act and here are the articles being added (sourced from Wikipedia since we know basic googling is too much effort for a modern human). Keep in mind that the infamous article 13 is now article 17

  • Article 3
    Copyright exception for text and data mining (TDM) for the purposes of scientific research.
  • Article 4
    Article 4 proposes a mandatory exception for the use of copyrighted works as part of "digital and cross-border teaching activities". This article, when implemented, would clarify that educational establishments can make non-commercial use of copyrighted works for illustrative purposes.
  • Article 11 (dubbed by the opposition as link tax)
    Article 11 extends the 2001 Copyright Directive to grant publishers direct copyright over "online use of their press publications by information society service providers". The version of the directive voted on by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs contained explicit exemptions for the act of hyperlinking and "legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users".
  • Article 17 (previously Article 13)
    Article 13 prevents the "mere conduit" exemption from copyright infringement from for-profit "online content sharing service providers" with a new, conditional exemption to liability. Companies are not liable if they can ensure that “best efforts” have been made in moderating infringing content. The article also extends any licenses granted to creators, if the content that includes the copyrighted material is non-profit.
    The article directs member states to consider the size of the provider, the amount of content uploaded, and the effectiveness of the measures imposed "in light of technological developments". It also mandates an appeal process and requires content hosts to share "information on the use of content" with the content owner, the lack of which has been a point of contention in the past.
    Article 13's provisions target large commercial content platforms (such as YouTube). The proposal makes explicit that this does not include private cloud storage services, non-profit encyclopaedias (such as Wikipedia), nor non-profit educational or scientific repositories.

Our opinion

Klemen - The YouTube question

The situation on YouTube when it comes to filters is pretty sh*t already. As someone who follows about two dozens channels I get to hear about demonetization and false flag copyright claims A LOT. A few years ago, major advertisers on the platform decided to impose much stricter guidelines when it came to advertising on even slightly non-politically correct videos. The situation was dubbed “The ADpocalypse” and it had a sequel too, after a certain Swedish YouTuber had a “heated gaming moment”. The response YouTube came up with was obviously stricter filters.

How bad are the filters you ask? Oh boy… The controversies ranged from demonetizing the whole LGBT community on the site to videos losing advertising if they included only a single word that MIGHT be used in a non-PC context. The copyright strikes are also merciless. The most absurd instances include videos getting claimed for including white noise because a certain company decided to copyright white noise.

But to return to the topic at hand - If defence against false flag pre-emptive filtering is not where it should be, original content will suffer. Users should have the power to dispute unjust claims and this does not apply only to YouTube. I used the example above to point out how poorly big corporations are handling the filters now and I urge the EU to please ensure that creators that work with lots of materials made by other creators (primarily YouTubers) hold sufficient power to protect themselves from bullsh*t false flags.

Rui - It is (probably) not the end of the internet

The conversation on Article 11 and Article 13 (sometimes called “meme ban” or “EU dictatorship”) has led a lot of European citizens, most of them young people, into upheaval regarding this new legislation. The purpose of this article was to give some more information to young citizens, so that they can have their own opinion on this topic. Here is mine: this is (probably) not the end of the internet.

The internet has grown a lot during the last couple of years and it has been very difficult for governments and legislative bodies like the EU to regulate it. It constantly changes at a speed like no other area in the field of politics. But being hard to regulate cannot be an excuse to let it happen without legislation and without rules.
I am not sure if this is the correct solution for the problem but I am pretty sure that copyright on the internet needs to be protected, respecting artists' and content creators' rights and property.

The theoretic principle behind these articles seems right to me: we need to do something! And it makes sense for me because if Youtube or Facebook illegally make available to the world the work of an artist (when a user uploads it without having the right to do it), it is a responsibility of the user that uploaded it but also the responsibility of the big corporations because they are the ones that make it available to other users.

So, I think we will need to wait and see. As a computer science student, I am pretty convinced that during the next two years (the time that countries have to put the EU legislation into their own legislation) big platforms like Facebook or Youtube will be able to test their mechanisms and improve algorithms and filters (hope you read Klemen’s part) to be able to respect the new law and protect copyright.

But it’s your call: if you do not agree with the directive and are unhappy with the Members of the European Parliament and Political Groups that supported it, go check who voted what and decide how are you going to vote. You get an idea from here (fun starts on page 51) and click here for an overview by country and party. Voting for the people that you relate to, after getting all the necessary information, is fundamental to shaping European politics.

What happens now?

This is a European directive which means that the EU does not dictate to countries on how to do it: the countries are the ones who decide how to follow these rules in order to achieve the objectives of the directive. After several months of negotiation, the process concluded and the European Parliament (which you can elect in the May European Elections!) voted for it: 348 in favour and 274 against. Now, countries have up to two years to put these new rules into their national laws so that the directive is followed in every Member State of the European Union.

Big internet corporations will also use this time to see how they can adapt in order to respect the new EU legislation.

If you want to give your opinion, please feel free to do it in the comment sections of the #GiveAVote social media. We will be around to answer your doubts. But remember that your opinion matters more to European politicians if you and your friends go out and vote in the European Elections: that is how you can tell them what you think on this topic. Because yes, the internet is also about politics, so if you give a sh*t about it, #GiveAVote.

Further reading

We encourage readers to check both sides of the story!